Son of six-man football Hall of Famer wins own state title with Jim Ned

Mike Lee / Special to the Bulletin
Jim Ned's Hayden Humprhies

Prior to the 2019 football season, Jim Ned High School junior Hayden Humphries was searching for a way to contribute to the Indians’ varsity team.

“He was 5-foot-6 and weighed 130 pounds,” said Chad Humphries, Hayden’s dad. “But he’s a competitor, and he wanted to find a way to fit in with the team. We had lost our kicker from the year before (2018), so he figured that was the best way he could help the team.”

Chad had quarterbacked the Panther Creek Panthers to back-to-back six-man football state championships in 1992 and 1993. Kicking, though, was not among the many talents that helped his 2015 induction into the Texas 6-Man Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

“I knew nothing about kicking,” Chad said. “Hayden watched some videos on YouTube and went out in our backyard and taught himself how to kick. My job was to be the gopher. I went and gathered up all the footballs after he kicked them and brought them back to him.”

Hayden said, “I had played soccer when I was little. I just got out in the backyard and kicked. I had an apparatus that held the ball for me.”

By the third game of his junior season in 2019, Hayden was promoted to the varsity to kick. He finished the season 26-of-35 on extra-point kicks, and Jim Ned finished with a 7-4 record.

Even though he grew to 5-feet-10 and 160 pounds for his senior season, Hayden kept practicing his kicking. And during the 2020 season, all the tangibles and intangibles came together for him and the Indians. Jim Ned’s run to glory began with an impressive 24-21 nondistrict win over state-ranked Hallettsville, and Hayden provided the winning points with a third-quarter field goal.

“Hallettsville was ranked in the Top 10 at the time. That win showed us that we could play with anybody in the state,” Hayden said.

Jim Ned’s next big step toward a breakthrough season was beating Wall 28-8 to win their district. The Indians had lost to Wall six straight times.

After Jim Ned beat Paradise and Dalhart to open the playoffs, the No. 1-ranked Brock Eagles were waiting for the Indians. Just five years earlier, perennial power Brock had humbled Jim Ned 70-7 in a playoff game.

This time, though, Jim Ned took a 16-0 lead before Brock rallied for a 16-16 tie. Hayden kicked a 22-yard, game-winning field goal with 4:42 left in the Indians’ 19-16 upset.

“I wasn’t nervous before that kick,” Chad said. “I knew he had been kicking the ball well. I really didn’t worry about any of his kicks after he kicked that field goal against Hallettsville.

“I knew how much work he had put into his kicking. When he was kicking in the backyard, I had to buy several new footballs. We have a lot of mesquite trees in our backyard, and they kept putting holes in some of the footballs.”

Another thing happened after Jim Ned beat Brock.

“Beating Hallettsville and Wall were big, but after we beat Brock, I went ahead and booked a hotel room in Dallas for the night of the state championship game,” Chad said. “I thought then that we had a shot at it because everybody was saying this was Brock’s best team ever.”

In Jim Ned’s 45-28 win over Pilot Point in the state quarterfinals, Hayden kicked a 23-yard field goal on the final play of the first half that gave the Indians a 24-7 halftime lead. In the Indians’ 24-17 win over Mount Vernon in the state semifinals, Hayden kicked a career-long 34-yard field goal.

The Dec. 17 state championship game was a rematch with Hallettsville. Hayden kicked three extra points, and Jim Ned won 29-28 in overtime after completing a two-point pass play after its final touchdown. The Indians rallied from a 21-0 first-half deficit to win their first state championship in football and finished the season with 14 consecutive victories after a season-opening loss to Ballinger.

“I was 100 percent more excited for Hayden and Jim Ned than I was when we won state at Panther Creek,” Chad said.

That’s a strong statement considering that, in 1992, Chad’s Panther Creek team ended Fort Hancock’s 70-game win streak and four-year stranglehold on the state championship.

“Jim Ned was probably not the most talented (3A DI) team, but they fought for themselves and for each other,” Chad said. “They had a talented offensive and defensive line that wore teams down in the third and fourth quarters.”

Hayden finished the playoffs a perfect 27-for-27 on extra-point kicks, plus he kicked four field goals during the postseason. For the 2020 season, he finished 56-of-64 on PATs and 5-of-6 on field goals. Hayden’s 71 points finished second on the team in scoring behind 2,300-yard rusher Xavier Wishert.

Hayden shrugged off his crucial field goals in the playoffs.

“I didn’t feel any extra pressure. I just kept doing what I had been doing. It was just another kick to me,” he said.